Laura Isabel: Prologue – Chapter 1 of 5

Written by Harold McNeill on October 19th, 2010. Posted in Biographies


Laura Isabel Skarsen (McNeill)(Wheeler)
In Memory of
Laura Isabel Skarsen (McNeill) (Wheeler)
A True Canadian Pioneer
1918 – 2008

Link to Part 1 A New Beginning 
Link to part 2
 The Early Years
Link to Part 3 The Young Woman
Link to Part 4 A New Beginning
Link to Part 5 The Final Chapter

Laura Isabel: Prologue – Chapter 1 of 5

It is amazing how much the world changed during Laura’s lifetime. Born in a Southern Alberta dust storm, at five years old she was on a wagon train with her parents and grandparents as they headed to Northern Saskatchewan in order to create a new life on a homestead.

She grew into adulthood in the Great Depression as clouds of dust blanketed the prairies and jobless men road freight trains in search of work. The ‘great’ depression barely ended when the Second World War seized the world in it’s powerful grip. It was a character building period that began in the ashes of one world war and ended with the euphoria that accompanied the years following World War II.

The first 30 years of her life were spent without the benefit of electricity or running water, with food that was largely home grown and preserved by the family. The long, sometimes, bitterly cold prairie winters, created a family closeness that would hold for a lifetime.

Laura and every sibling was born at home and medical help was often days away.  Families frequently numbered ten or more and everything was shared among family and friends whenever the need arose.

For the next 60 years Laura lived and watched as the world of technology took mankind to the moon, built a space station and explored Mars as everyone watched from their living room; a world where families communicated instantly by email and maintained daily contact by sharing pictures, stories and playing games on Facebook.

Even well into her eighties, Laura was willing to do and try new things – like a purchasing a new Digital Video Recorder (DVR) for her TV. Make no mistake that little gadget can frustrate a technologically savvy thirty something so it was neat to phone Laura and hear her say, “Just a moment while I pause this program” or if you dropped by and she was in the middle of her favourite daytime show say, “It’s okay, I can watch it later I have it recorded, can you stay for coffee?”

Harold and Lynn McNeill
June 2008

Footnote:

The following short biography first appeared in a Laura’s Heritage Cookbook, completed in the spring of 2008 as surprise for her 90th birthday party.  The idea of the book originated with Lynn while mom was living with our family in Victoria in 2005.  When mom came to stay, she brought with her a large file filled with her favorite recipes; Most were handwritten, a few typewritten, a few torn from other books and many had little notes jotted in the margins to remind her of the source of the recipe, a story associated with that recipe or another small memory.

Unbeknown to mom, Lynn spirited the recipes away, photocopied each of the more than two hundred pages and secreted the copies for future use. Over the next three years Lynn transcribed the entire package, all with the intention that one day compiling a recipe book.

With mom’s 90th birthday was approaching in 2008, there seemed no better time to put the plan into action.  Over several weeks Lynn categorized and formatted the recipes using a program designed for that purpose.  Meanwhile, I began searching for photographs for insertion in the book and, as well, began writing a short biography to be used as an introduction. The biography, with corrections and updates, is presented in this five part blog entry.

The whole process took much longer than expected and as the clock clicked toward the day of our departure from Victoria, we frantically worked to complete the final draft. It was taken to the printer two day’s before our departure and on the evening before departure, the first 150 copies came off the press.

For this blog entry, a larger selection of photographs represent each of the four major periods of mom’s life. More in depth stories of the life and times of Mom, Dad and our family are presented in the Family Stories section.

Harold McNeill
October 2010

Link to part 2 The Early Years

Link to Part 3 The Young Woman

Link to Part 4 A New Beginning

Link to Part 5 The Final Chapter

 

(2021)

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Comments

  • Harold McNeill

    February 28, 2022 |

    Hi Robert, I do remember some of those folks from my early years in Cold Lake (Hazel was my aunt and our family spent many fond times with Uncle Melvin, Aunt Hazel and Family. I knew Lawrence and Adrian. Having read a half dozen accounts it is clear their were many false narratives and, perhaps, a few truths along the way. I tried my best to provide an even account from what I read. Cheers, Harold. (email: Harold@mcneillifestories.com)

  • Robert Martineau

    February 25, 2022 |

    Its been a long time since any post here, but its worth a shot. My Grandfather was Hazel Wheelers brother Lawrence, and son to Maggie and Adrien. Maggie Martineau (nee Delaney) is my great grandmother. The books and articles to date are based on the white mans viewpoint and the real story as passed down by the Elders in my family is much more nefarious. Some of the white men were providing food for the Indians in exchange for sexual favors performed by the Squaws. Maggie was the product of one of those encounters. Although I am extremely proud of my family and family name, I am ashamed about this part of it.

  • Julue

    January 28, 2022 |

    Good morning Harold!
    Gosh darn it, you are such a good writer. I hope you have been writing a book about your life. It could be turned into a movie.
    Thanks for this edition to your blog.
    I pray that Canadians will keep their cool this weekend and next week in Ottawa. How do you see our PM handling it? He has to do something and quick!
    Xo Julie

  • Herb Craig

    December 14, 2021 |

    As always awesome job Harold. It seems whatever you do in life the end result is always the same professional, accurate, inclusive and entertaining. You have always been a class act and a great fellow policeman to work with. We had some awesome times together my friend. I will always hold you close as a true friend. Keep up the good work. Hope to see you this summer.
    Warm regards
    Herb Craig

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.

  • Howie Siegel

    November 25, 2021 |

    My only fight at Pagliacci’s was a late Sunday night in 1980 (?) He ripped the towel machine off the bathroom wall which brought me running. He came after me, I grabbed a chair and cracked him on the head which split his skull and dropped him. I worried about the police finding him on the floor. I had just arrived from Lasqueti Island and wasn’t convinced the police were my friends. I dragged him out to Broad and Fort and left him on the sidewalk, called the cops. They picked him up and he never saw freedom again (as far as I know). I found out it was Ross Elworthy.

  • Herbert Plain

    November 24, 2021 |

    Just read you article on Pibroch excellent. My Dad was Searle Grain company agent we move there in 1942/3 live in town by the hall for 5 years than moved one mile east to the farm on the corner where the Pibroch road meets Hwy 44. Brother Don still lives there. I went to school with you and Louise.